Researchers from University of Virginia School of Medicine devised a new technique of accurately targeting molecules within cells to develop safer medicines.
The research led by J. Julius Zhu, PhD, University of Virginia School of Medicine, developed a method to manipulate molecules in various locations within individual cells. The molecules through this method perform different tasks depending on their location, which in turn could help in determining the exact locations of target to avoid locations that would cause harmful side effects. Prior to the research it was known that drugs targeted molecules in a very general way and if a molecule was thought to be harmful, a drug could be developed to block it entirely. However, the team realized the downside of such shotgun approach. A molecule might be harmful due to its certain function in a specific part of the cell. However, the same molecule is doing something tremendously important in other part of the cell. Hence, shutting it down entirely was hardly a convenient solution.
The new technique is expected to assist doctors in targeting a specific molecule doing a specific thing in a specific location. Such approach provides an enhanced level of precision to the concept of precision medicine, especially for cancers and neurological conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s. It is also expected to accelerate the development of new treatments by letting researchers more quickly understand the functions of molecules at various locations in the cell and decide which molecules to target based on the function. The research was published in the scientific journal Neuron on April 26, 2018. It was funded by groups in America and abroad, including National Institutes of Health grants.